Cre­at­ing Death’s Head

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Comic He­roes:

So what was the gen­e­sis of Death’s Head?

Si­mon Fur­man: “I was writ­ing Transformers, and we’d just started this space Spaghetti Western-style saga called Wanted: Gal­va­tron – Dead or Alive, which spun out from Transformers The Movie*. Part of the remit was to ex­pand the Transformers uni­verse, an­other part was to ex­plore my love of Spaghetti Westerns, es­pe­cially The Dol­lars Tril­ogy. Any­way, this all fil­tered down into the idea of a ro­botic bounty hunter. Orig­i­nally, as the ti­tle of the comic was Transformers and not ‘An­other Bunch Of Badass Mechs’, Death’s Head was meant to be an en­tirely throw­away char­ac­ter. He’d serve the story, set the cat among the pi­geons, and then exit stage left.”

CH:

SF:

Death’s Head didn’t just look good, he had a unique per­son­al­ity…

“A lot of the stuff we know and love about Death’s Head wasn’t in the orig­i­nal script. But it just so hap­pened that Ge­off Se­nior was draw­ing that is­sue. I had the name, and I al­most cer­tainly men­tioned that I wanted a skull-style cra­nium, but how much else I put in the script I don’t know. What came back from Ge­off was just so much more than I (or any­one else) was ex­pect­ing. I knew im­me­di­ately I didn’t just want to use and dis­card this char­ac­ter, and went as far as to do an­other di­a­logue pass on the script to throw in some more char­ac­ter/ver­bal beats and tics, to re­ally give him a per­son­al­ity. I was aware that bounty hunters were pretty com­mon­place, so I tried to think of ways to give him some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. There was the whole ‘free­lance peace­keep­ing agent’ an­gle, a kind of com­plete de­nial about be­ing any­thing so com­mon as a bounty hunter, and then the idea that he never, ever does any­thing un­less he’s get­ting paid. Emo­tional re­sponses just don’t come into it.”

SF:

What are the key char­ac­ter­is­tics that make Death’s Head such a good char­ac­ter and such fun to write?

“The hu­mour is a big part. I’m from that hardy Bri­tish stock weaned on strips that mixed quite hard-edged ac­tion with dark, dark hu­mour and satire. With­out the gal­lows hu­mour he’s just an­other badass killing ma­chine. You need to off­set the in­her­ent nas­ti­ness of what he does with these oddball mo­ments and per­son­al­ity tics and gen­eral lack of mono­logu­ing or emot­ing. He’s also very much a prod­uct of the ’80s. Ev­ery­thing’s about the bot­tom line, the pay­day. Show me the money.

“The What If? we did with Death’s Head kind of sums the char­ac­ter up for me. In it, he pretty much sac­ri­fices half Marvel’s ros­ter of he­roes just to weaken the vil­lain and make the ‘kill’ eas­ier. Then, in the bloody aftermath, with his bounty se­cured, he opines wist­fully about he­roes and hero­ism and con­cludes… ‘I hope it’s not catch­ing, yes?’ That to me is Death’s Head and what makes him so much fun to write.”

CH:

SF:

Michael Molcher talks to Si­mon Fur­man, co-cre­ator of the ruth­less ro­botic “free­lance peace­keep­ing agent”

The char­ac­ter was re­born as Death’s Head II and be­came Marvel UK’s big­gest seller. Was that a bit­ter­sweet ex­pe­ri­ence?

“It was bit­ter more than sweet to be bru­tally hon­est. And the prob­lem I had with Death’s Head II was why call it Death’s Head at all? It was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter, and much more of a generic ro­bot. With­out the hu­mour and the quirks/ tics it just wasn’t Death’s Head to me. But hey, that’s all wa­ter un­der the bridge now. Ge­off and I got to do that rather cathar­tic What If? wherein the orig­i­nal Death’s Head kills Death’s Head II. Any­way, I’m over it now… re­ally… hon­estly…”

CH: Af­ter 25 years, how does it feel to have a char­ac­ter that’s still so ap­pre­ci­ated? SF:

“It’s in­cred­i­ble to think that Death’s Head is still go­ing and find­ing new fans. And he’s still win­ning polls for HeroClix and other stuff. I just think that the core of the char­ac­ter is very pure and di­rect. He’s a re­fresh­ing an­ti­dote to this kind of kill-crazy at­ti­tude you get a lot in comics now.”

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